BOSTON – The Boston Celtics’ locker room was a ghost town prior to tonight’s Game 7 tip-off against Washington, with Kelly Olynyk among the few in the room.
I talked to him about this game, figuring he would speak about the need for the bench players to step up.
“We have to give them the support they need in order for us to get over the hump,” he said.
And then he began to talk about his native Canada, and how he viewed Game 7 as if he were playing for his national team and they needed to win one game in order to get to the Olympics.
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For those unfamiliar with Olynyk’s story, that is one of the many things that drives him as a basketball player.
And if you didn’t know it before, you know it now after the 7-footer had what will be remembered as the night Kelly came alive in a way he had never before.
Olynyk was nothing short of amazing in treating Game 7 like it was the most important game of his basketball life, tallying a career-high 26 points in helping Boston come away with a 115-105 win that sends them to the Eastern Conference Finals where they will host the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers with Game 1 on Wednesday at the TD Garden.
Boston also got yet another strong game from Isaiah Thomas who led the Celtics with 29 points and a playoff career-high 12 assists.
For the Wizards, Bradley Beal led all scorers with 38 points with John Wall chipping in with a double-double of 18 points and 11 assists.
And as Olynyk walked off the floor with 1:37 to play and Boston ahead 110-102, he received a rousing applause, the kind he has never had as a member of the Celtics.
On this night, it was well deserved.
Boston has been damn near begging for Olynyk to be an aggressive, in attack mode scorer that a player with his skills has the potential to be.
In the biggest game of his NBA career, he rose to the occasion.
“This is what it’s about,” Olynyk told CSNNE.com prior to the game.
After strong finish to the third, Boston continued its strong play in the fourth with a 9-2 run to start the quarter which put them ahead 94-81, their largest lead of the game.
Following a Washington time-out with 10:00 minutes to play, they responded with a 7-0 spurt which led to Brad Stevens calling a time-out with 8:49 to play and Boston ahead 94-88.
The game’s turning point came in the third quarter when Washington pulled ahead by 70-64 and seemingly were on track to increase the lead when Jae Crowder was called for an offensive foul and immediately pounded the ball into the parquet, a clear sign of his frustration.
Boston forced a miss, Al Horford converted a 3-point play and within minutes, the score was tied at 72 following a Jaylen Brown lay-up.
Following a Wizards time-out, they went back to trying to pound it inside and crash the glass – one of their best forms of producing points.
It worked, with Marcin Gortat getting fouled and made the first of two free throws that put the Wizards back on top, 73-72. That was followed by a Beal 3-pointer that made it a 76-72 game.
Just when it seemed the Celtics were on the verge of digging themselves a deep ditch, they dug deep and began to start burying 3’s as they closed out the third with a 13-3 run to take an 85-79 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Boston’s surge at the end of the third quarter was similar to how the game began for the Celtics.
The Celtics began the game with an 8-2 run, the kind of start that fired up and already-juiced TD Garden crowd.
Washington spent most of the first half staying within striking distance, but soon pulled ahead with less than a minute to play in the half and held on for a 55-53 lead after two quarters of play.